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Ed Massey '64 skis all 18 Utah ski areas

One Man, One Month, 367,000 Vertical Feet

April 15, 2011

Ski Utah invited me to write about my January devoted to skiing all eighteen ski areas listed on the Ski Utah web site.

I left the office on January 4 and returned home on February 6 and when I started this adventure I had no idea what the meaning of "all" might be. Start north, work south, and without even trying, the ski geography of Utah falls in place: four great canyon areas: Ogden, Park City/Parley's, Big Cottonwood, and Little Cottonwood, and the trip South. One outlier, Beaver Mountain, proved a challenge, but all meant all.

Aware that I was skiing alone, I put an "In Case of Emergency" card inside my jacket, with a local contact and Anne's (my wife) cell phone, and off I went. From here I am on my actual journey.

1/4/2011 6:09 AM: Off today. I have had a lot of second guessing myself this past twenty four hours. It is a clear example of how your life is the result of your own decisions. I could have lived forever and never decided to do this. It would have mattered to nobody ― but me.

1/7/2011 5:30 AM (mountain time). The travel really gets in the way. Arrive at midnight, find the car, sleep fast. Up and over to Utah Ski and Golf by eight o'clock. They are much better negotiators than I. Arriving at a month's deal for their Gold package, I was out the door on my way to Wolf Creek. A small mountain, 1000 vertical feet, an ideal start for someone who lives eleven miles from the ocean. Crystal clear, fifteen degree weather, and 14,500 vertical feet in the afternoon. That's a lot of runs, made possible with lay ‘em flat and let ‘em run terrain and no lines. By the end of the day the good man at the lift dismount and I got to know each other pretty well.

Thursday's need to place a cell call forced a change from my original Beaver Mountain plan to Snowbasin ― a change that saved me from freezing to death! Alternator went out. My electrical system shut down and I rolled into the Phillips 66 in Peterson and met Randy. No alternators in Morgan County, but he figured a recharge of my battery would get me the 22 miles into Ogden.

Today, back on the road to finish my altitude and physical preparation, I took on Homestead and Soldier Hollow, two of four areas listed as Nordic only. Homestead is not ready for prime-time, but Soldier Hollow, is, in the words of a University of Utah coach I met on the track, "a world class facility. " The finest Classic Track I have ever seen and the skating track next to it perfectly corduroyed. Every kind of trail, short and long, beginner and expert, and the views were exhilarating. Two words to the neophyte (me): Bring plenty of clothes. I soaked through all of my clothes before and after lunch. And when the trail map tells you the trail ("The Hollow") is four kilometers with some challenging uphill, don't think about the uphill. By the time you have gone two kilometers uphill you are pretty tired and pretty wet, but think only of what now faces you: down. Muscle fatigue complicates poor technique and cross-country skiing downhill can develop into a catastrophic sport.

1/8/2011 6:35 AM Park City, after taking care of all the chores of moving in, I lay on my bed lacking energy to do anything but let the passive TV wash over me. Long sleep, and now I have a few hours to think before I hit the hill in Deer Valley. Whoa! There is a lot more to this trail map than I remember. I am going to ski every single lift ― without skiing any of them twice. 4 h 23 m later I had accomplished all 21 lifts from the Jordanelle gondola on the left way up near Heber to Lady Morgan on the right. This was a bigger area than I remembered, made incredibly fun by runs like Nabob, Stein Erickson, Orion, Ore Cart, Pearl, and Webster. I even took the Burns and Snowflake lifts, made my goal and the shadows were creeping in. A moment of self-recognition was a nice reward; I stopped.

1/9/2011 3:09 AM and looking down the hours to a day of cold and sunshine in Park City. I found a mountain workshop, ski all morning and have a "beyond parallel" experience in the afternoon. Our instructor, a retired federal officer with the EPA, shared with me a fine sensibility for understanding the highest joy on the hill was to ski well and then to ski better. Lucky because the much younger other three members of our workshop held that joy was to blast down, barely on the edge of survival, learn nothing, and do it again. A testament to Steve, he kept us both happy.

1/10/2011 3:45 AM, what was to be a day of rest devoted to improving my skiing turned out to be a day of even more skiing, closing the lifts after four. After the very cold, I headed to a jetted tub and some wonderful High Mountain West Distillery rye. By eight-thirty, I had been asleep for an hour and went to bed. I had not been to The Canyons since its incarnation as Park West. What I found was not what I remembered. Fun from the "Cabriolet" that takes you up to the first gondola to the "Orange Bubble" right through to 9990. I could see the boarders were obviously having fun and they didn't bother me. The Canyons was so massive, it took three or four runs to ski out every lift and two days to ski everything.

1/11/2011 5:53 AM Exhaustion never improves your skiing and today I planned to ski all black runs. From a chair lift that carries you to the very top, hence 9990, you can ski all black and double black diamond runs. With a big sign across the superstructure of its entrance: "There is No Easy Way Down," if they said there were black diamond runs, I believe them, but by my fourth run, I couldn't find any. I swear all I was skiing were double black.

1/12/2011 6:13 AM. A day off downhill, but not to be a restful day. I plan to take skating lessons at White Pine Touring. Learning to skate cross-country ski had me out there for almost two hours in the morning, where I was taught much and learned struggle and sweat. More practice in the afternoon, I never got off the school hill. For a true cross country skier, I suspect it is little more than a practice track, but all I did was practice, maybe that colors the conclusion.

1/13/2011 5:39 AM What can you say about Solitude? Sweet, small, steep…and confusing. I spent the whole day lost. In fairness, when you get down to the bottom of the hill, you get on the lift and go up. When you get up to the top of the lift, you get off and point your tips downward. Down is where you go. So, how lost can you be?

1/17/2011 6:36 AM On the road to the four areas south of Salt Lake City, Sundance being the first on a warm, holiday Monday. Even a mediocre day skiing beats the best day in the office. And there was that avalanche in the canyon for excitement.

1/18/2011 8:22 AM Sleeping at 9700 feet and I can feel it. Off to Eagle Point. Originally Elk Meadows, dormant about seven years ago, re-started in the middle of Fishlake National Forest. From the mouth of the canyon to the parking lot at the top lift, 18 miles, and not a car going either way. I was relieved to pull in the lot and find six cars already there. The top lift (Skyline) serves a relentlessly sunny and blue mountain with a run (Tunnel Vision) down to the bottom lift that serves a dark mountain with ten different (black) ways down the hill. The only blue run involves catching a mountain cat that pulls you up the hill. It wasn't working that day.

Brian Head is my nomination for the fun family hill of the trip. High, steep, rounded, no sharp edges. The hill would laugh at you if you tried to be macho. Trees up to the timberline, and 11,000 ft, a few, sturdy, hardy trees. Glorious. Wind scours the windward side and dumps on the leeward side, pack — powder — pack, calling for some shifting of styles at times.

1/21/2011 6:21 AM, today to Ruby's Inn. Going to Bryce Canyon for a ski vacation is a little bit like having a dream about a dream. I search for the best analogy to get across to you how excited one can get. I have resisted the temptation to pepper this little blog with photos, but I cannot resist. Yes, those are the tips of my cross country skis peeking out over the rim as we peer down into Bryce.

1/24/2011 6:40 AM A day off for the grandeur of Zion and the drive back to Beaver Mountain. It's a family owned mountain and they watch their nickels. I understood when they told me that the Beaver's Face lift was shut down on weekdays. Lots of kids and high school ski teams on the mountain, but not much traffic. Furthest south to furthest north in two days capped three weeks of ski areas tuning up for the serious stuff still to come.

1/25/2011 5:50 AM: So far twenty days of cold as hell and crystal clear (save one sudden white out at Bryan Head) Utah January and I get to Snowbasin in a snow storm so heavy the mountain cams couldn't even tell me if the lifts were running. The next day was Utah bright, sunny, cold, and not windy. When you skied Strawberry Express, it was hot enough to bring a sweat. You could ski Snowbasin forever. Only death would stop you; not an untimely death, just one that comes after 100 years or so. On the way up the Strawberry Express gondola, I met Lisa Fuller, a member of the Board of Directors of Ski Utah. She urged me to write this blog.

1/28/2011 5:45 AM After two days at Snowbasin, yesterday at Powder Mountain. I had never been there before and I had been warned: huge (7,000 skiable acres) and very challenging. I had set aside two. A big hill, there is challenge ― the lift system is quite a chore with much travelling required. Great sun and a wonderful place just to be alone, but the place for me to have another day was Snowbasin. The John Paul Express followed by the Allen Peak Tram (Men's Start picture) is addictive.

1/29/2011 6:30 AM My son, JE, is here, starting the last week. Today in Brighton, a serious mountain that, unfortunately, pales some but the perfect tune up day for JE. There are actual lift lines and if you aren't careful about where you ski you may have to devote ten minutes each run to inching your way forward.

1/31/2011 5:51 AM Yesterday re-visiting the simple joy of The Canyons. What a surprising amount of exercise, skiing with four other men. Alta. First day, snowed so heavily you could barely see your partner but here is the one hill in the world where visibility does not seem to rob one of the experience: no matter how steep or how uncharted, you are skiing in snow above your knees and just pushing through it takes all your concentration.

2/1/2011 6:25 AM Like the song, "I Love Paris," Alta is the Paris of all skiing in America, a little funky and definitely resistant to change. The second day's clear sky was the perfect day for a Mountain Adventure. Again, like the French, they are a little arrogant. When you sign up they never tell you what you are going to be doing that day, you just take it on faith, and that day it was all mountain conditions.

2/2-3-4/2011 7:00 AM Three days at Snowbird. The last of my 18 ski areas in Utah. Very cold. Snowbird has everything for everybody but it is death-defying when visibility is poor. The tendency to ski down the cat tracks is unnerving when you cannot see where you are about to fall into oblivion. I finally gave up and just skied down the hill. At least I knew where it was going.

Now I am back home. In their own way, a lot of people asked why I was doing this. Not that it was a dream of mine, at least not any longer than November of last year, but it falls within the whole notion of living your dream. As I wrote the day I left, life is the result of your own decisions. People should allow themselves to identify their dreams and live them. So, my month was over, but it is not gone. A little daunting, from time to time, getting up each morning and facing another day alone on the hill, but I did it and I will have it forever.

Edward can be reached at edwardmassey@telluridepromise.com.